India, Australia agree to take ties to strategic partnership level

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New Delhi, Nov.13 (ANI): Following bilateral discussions here on Thursday evening, the Prime Ministers' of India and Australia-Dr. Manmohan Singh and Kevin Rudd-have agreed to take the relationship to the level of a strategic partnership and to intensify their contacts with each other.

Both Dr Singh and Rudd agreed that India and Australia are two countries with shared interests and shared values.

"We are both pluralist democracies. We are both global in our outlook, but also closely integrated into the Asian region. Our economic relationship is expanding rapidly. We have a shared desire to enhance and maintain peace, stability and prosperity in Asia. We both value multilateral institutions and recognise the need to reform and renovate them. Our people-to-people links are broad-based and growing," the two leaders said through a joint statement issued after delegation-level meetings at Hyderabad House here.

Reiterating their committment to the promotion of "political pluralism and parliamentary democracy", the two Prime Ministers emphasised the need to reinvigorate bilateral parliamentary exchanges.

Aware of the critical role that young people will play in meeting the challenges and taking forward the initiatives of the 21st century, the two leaders welcomed the proposal to establish a new young political leaders program.

A familiarisation visit of Australian young political leaders to India is likely to take place in 2010 to work out the modalities, the joint statement said.

Both Dr. Singh and Mr. Rudd also reaffirmed the strong security and defence ties between India and Australia and welcomed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation that will see the two countries intensify their efforts to maintain peace, stability and prosperity.

Both agreed that regional and multilateral cooperation is an important strand of the India - Australia relationship.

The two leaders reaffirmed the key role being played in the Asian region by bodies such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Asia Europe Meeting.

They welcomed the outcomes of the Fourth East Asia Summit (EAS) held in Hua Hin on 25 October, and agreed that the agenda of the EAS should continue to be strengthened.

In particular, they welcomed the agreement reached by EAS leaders to convene an EAS Finance Ministers' meeting and to have officials consider a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia.

According to the joint statement, Rudd reaffirmed Australia's firm support for India's membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping when the membership moratorium ends next year.

The two Prime Ministers also welcomed ongoing discussion about how the institutional architecture of the region could evolve over time. Dr Singh welcomed Mr. Rudd's intention to convene a 1.5 track conference in Sydney in December 2009 to consider further Australia's Asia Pacific community initiative.

They also reconfirmed their support for reform of the United Nations to ensure it reflects the realities of the 21st century, including by modernising the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In this context, Rudd reiterated Australia's support for a permanent seat for India on the UNSC.

Both Rudd and Dr. Singh welcomed the decision to make the G-20 the premier forum for international economic cooperation. Both countries stressed the need to increase agency-level cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as terrorism.

Both reaffirmed their shared vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and agreed to work together in a spirit of partnership on global disarmament and non-proliferation. (ANI)

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